Small Business Marketing FAQs

What is a small business? The government has introduced certain criteria including the number of employees, annual receipts, affiliates and other applicable factors to identify a small business. It can be quickly determined by using SBA’s NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Lookup. Enter the business description; NAICS will locate the business type in the resulting table.

What is marketing? Marketing refers to the commercial processes involved in promoting, selling and distributing a product or service.

What does marketing involve? Marketing is an organizing tool. The four basic aspects of marketing include the four Ps such as product, price, promote and provide. It involves market research, formulating strategy and selling based on two important principles. The first principle states that all company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs. The second is that profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.

What is marketing strategy? Marketing strategy is the summary of the marketing goals. It is the formulation of the methods used to achieve the marketing objective.

What are the major constraints for small business marketing? The major constraints for small business marketing include budget limitations, lack of adequate resources and tough competition.

What are the important collateral marketing materials? Collateral marketing materials consist of printed marketing materials. They include brochures, business cards and news letters.

What is the importance of advertising in small business marketing? Advertising plays an important role in small business marketing. It helps to influence people with attractive marketing materials such as banners, sign boards, magazine and directory ads as well as trade booth displays.

Online Small Business Banking

In the digital age every bank has an online presence, from my little credit union to the big national players. However, not all banks are geared toward serving small business via the internet and, while they all offer you a lot of promises and maybe a flashy new toaster oven, not all of them offer you the services that you need at a competitive price. Here’s what to look for and how to spot those that offer online small business banking from the poseurs.

Customer Service and Big vs. Small Banks

One thing that you may read is how important it is to “cultivate relationships” with your banker and how important your banker is in expediting and even deciding whether or not you get a loan. While this may still be true in the smaller banks, in larger regional or national banks you will never, ever meets the person who approves your loan. A buddy of mine who was a big shot at a major bank before ditching it all to go into the Peace Corps said that the big banks create a strong separation from the banker that you meet, who is basically a sales person, and the person who decides, who is basically an accountant. So skip bribing your banker with chocolate truffles or bottles of bourbon. In fact, if you already bought the “gifts,” just send them here and I’ll gladly dispose of them for you for free!

Similarly, once the recommendation for business people was to keep all their banking with one bank, in order to build up a relationship of trust with that bank. Now, however, the idea of relationship is breaking down and, thanks to the internet and the relative ease of online banking, small businesses can cherry pick the best services off a smorgasbord of banks just like the Bigs do. In fact, the biggest reason that I can see of deliberately keeping all services with a single bank is not having to remember more than one sign-on, password, and pin!

What Your Bank Should Be Able to Do for You

Business Checking Account

One of the essential elements of running your own business is treating it as a separate entity distinct from your own personal affairs or the affairs of your other businesses or investments. Failing to treat your business as a separate entity opens up numerous potential legal and tax consequences that could end up being very costly or even financially disastrous to you. Opening up a business banking account is one essential act that helps establish your business as a separate entity. For most business the key to the checking account is functionality, forget interest rates and a few dollars difference in cost. The key questions are:

  • Can you use the web site to pay pre-pay bills, transfer money, accept online payments and whatever other essential services that your business might need?
  • Are you able to easily download information from the online site to QuickBooks Online or whatever other accounting software that you might be using?
  • Do they have the highest level of online security that is convenient for you?
  • Are they relatively light on “hidden fees” that $5 and $10 you to death just to be able to perform regular, essential operations of your business?

Security

Small businesses run by new entrepreneurs often have lower standards of security and this is especially true when it comes to banking and banking online. The smalls just don’t have the expertise nor the payrolls stuffed with I.T. professionals to keep up with the Trojans and frauds that cyber-criminals use to prey upon the unfortunate, and the unwary. You want the highest level of security possible but without making it so inconvenient on yourself that you aren’t fully able to take advantage of the online services. For example, while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala I often had to do my banking from internet cafes, and not always with my laptop that was impractical to lug around. When Chase, my original bank, changed the security so that I had to go through a complicated and time-consuming process every time I tried to access my account from a different computer I had to change banks (rather, I added a new bank) because that just wasn’t doable for me.

Loans and Lines of Credit

Loans are a prime area of shopping around and using the power of the internet to shave a fraction of a point off the interest rate. However, if you can’t pay the loan through an electronic transaction between the bank of your checking account and the bank that services the loan and make that payment for free then who cares about a little reduction of the interest rate. I like to look around for the best deal and then ask my primary bank if they can match it, just to keep my life as simple as possible.

Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to make payments these days is by credit card and you will want at least one that is exclusively used for business purposes. There is no “best” credit card for small business and usually your bank will be able to provide you one. Keep in mind that you want one that is easy to set up and maintain electronically, that is widely accepted (especially if you travel for business), and has a high enough limit for what you need. Remember that building up credit for your business is just like building up credit personally, the better your history the higher your limit will be.

In Conclusion

Starting up a small business can be intimidating and the days when you could have a banker hold your hand and guide you through the process are long gone. The flip side of that is the incredible amount of information available to you at your fingertips. Another advantage is that you are no longer geographically limited, a world of banks is waiting to serve you! Just remember to keep in mind the services that you need, those that you don’t need, and those that you need but could be found at another bank for a better price. Happy banking!

7 Steps to Creating a Successful Small Business Marketing Plan

Small business marketing is all about determining the needs of your target market and then providing solutions to meet those needs.

These 7 steps are aimed at entrepreneurs starting a small business and those who want to create a successful small business marketing plan for an existing business.
Most small business promotions focus on how great their products and services are. Instead, you should educate your target market consistently and start building a relationship that will establish your credibility and trust. It is important to develop a marketing mindset. “Think Marketing” your products and services all of the time. It is very important to consistently market your products and services. Don’t fall into the trap of stop and go marketing. Some small business owners only market when sales are down.

You can’t have a successful small business without having a successful small business marketing plan. Effective small business marketing is the way to growth and profits

If you’re a small business owner or you want to know how to start a small business in the future, this simple 7-step plan will help you understand your business and your target market.

How to Start a Small Business Marketing Plan: 7 Steps
Begin the process by answering these questions:

1) Who — Who specifically is your target market? Who is your ideal client? What research can you do to find out more about your target market?

2) What — What products and services do your ideal clients want and need? What does your product and service do for your ideal client? What problems does your product solve for your customer? What are the solutions that your ideal client is looking for? What is your area of specialty that will differentiate you in the marketplace? What are the industry trends? What type of message will your ideal client likely respond to? What are you ultimately selling? For example: Are you selling eye glasses or are you selling vision? What is your unique mix of products and services? What is your pricing strategy?

3) Where — Where is your ideal client? Where is your customer located geographically? Where will you position yourself so they can easily find you? Where are the best places to get your marketing message to them? Will you speak to groups, hold seminars, or write a blog, newsletters or articles?
4) When — How frequently does your target market need to hear your marketing message? When are they most likely to buy your products and services?

5) Why — Why are you in business? Why do customers or clients buy from you? Why should they choose your product or service over your competition?

6) How — How does your customer buy your product or service? How are you going to reach potential buyers for your services and products? How will you communicate your marketing message? How will you provide customers or clients with the information they need to make their buying decision?

7) Marketing Mindset – Practice mastering a Marketing Mindset and you will be on the path to a profitable small business.

With these 7 steps, you can take action towards starting a small business marketing plan that targets new customers. “Marketing is about testing and evaluating your return on investment. But it’s primarily about helping people get what they want.” Master these small business marketing steps and you will be on the path to more profit and success as a business owner.

The Fundamental MUST DO’s of a Small Business Marketing Strategy

The ultimate small business marketing strategy is really no secret if you stick to the fundamentals. As a small business owner, you are constantly being barraged with what someone is telling you is the latest and greatest marketing strategy. Before you waste your time and money on something new, you really need to ask yourself if you are doing the basics well.

Take a moment and remove yourself from your business and think of your business as your athletic team. It’s the beginning of the season and you are psyched about the year ahead. What is the first thing that you are going to do to prepare for the year? Do you start by practicing trick plays? Of course not! You practice the fundamentals.

  • If you’re a baseball team, you practice hitting and fielding.
  • If you’re a football team, you practice blocking, tackling, throwing and running.
  • If you’re a soccer team, you practice kicking and passing.
  • You don’t start running plays until your team is in shape!

Okay, now that practice is over and you have showered and cleaned up, it’s time to get back to your small business marketing strateg!

7 Critical Small Business Marketing Strategy Fundamentals

Is your team (staff) in shape? Do they know the fundamentals? Do you have them practice and rehearse the right way to do serve your customers or do you let them wing it and hope they’ll such a great job that your clients will be magnetically drawn back to your business?

Guess what? If you leave it to chance and assume clients will return, you risk taking your business into the world of mediocre results where you will join the legions of small business owners who are wondering where there next customer is coming from. Don’t leave your success to chance and then grasp for the magic bullet that will save your business. A powerful small business marketing strategy begins with the fundamentals. Here are 7 critical steps to your business success:

  1. Critical Fundamental #1: You must have a Unique Selling Proposition, which answers the question “Why should I do business with you?” Your USP is much more than we give good service or do a good job. Your competitors are saying the same thing. Your USP should have the prospect saying “Oh really? Tell me more!” It helps get your prospect interested in buying from you. Give them a powerful reason to do so.
  2. Critical Fundamental #2: Your business must be living your USP. If you make the claim, play the game by making sure everyone in your company lives the USP. If you claim great customer service but you let your phone ring 10 times before anybody answers it, your are not living a USP founded on customer service. FedEx doesn’t claim packages will usually get there overnight, they get them there overnight. If you make your clients go through 5 phone prompts to place an order, you are failing on a service claim. If your delivery driver doesn’t thank your customer, your competition’s will.
  3. Critical Fundamental #3: You must know the fundamentals of selling. It usually costs a huge amount of money to get a prospect to come to or call your business. Once they are there, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the skills to sell to them and maximize the value of the transaction? You do so by cross-selling and up-selling. Don’t expect the customer to ask for more , you must help them along. Sales training is one of the best investments that you can make in your company. Everybody who comes into contact with a prospect or client should know the basics of selling.
  4. Critical Fundamental #4: This fundamental is one of the most critical and obvious but most overlooked element of a successful small business marketing strategy! You must have a system to capture client and prospect information such as name, address, phone number, email address, buying history, preferences and other information relative to your business. Today’s technology makes that very inexpensive to do. When you have this information, you can develop a close relationship with your clients based on what THEY like.
    1. Here is a real world example: My wife and I eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and we like to go to different places. There is only one restaurant in the Cincinnati region that has ever even asked for my name and address. They send us coupons regularly so we eat there regularly. All of the rest are wondering how to get new clients in the door and spend a lot on advertising to get them there. Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Why don’t the others ask about me and what I like? It is real easy and inexpensive but most business owners are out of touch when it comes to knowing their clients.
  5. Critical Fundamental #5: You must have a system in place to regularly communicate with your prospects and clients. You should be frequently hitting them with unique offers, birthday cards, newsletters and special customer only specials. Your customers DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! The research proves it. If you don’t talk to them, you are communicating an attitude of indifference towards clients and opening the door for your competition to take them away from you.
  6. Critical Fundamental #6: You must leverage your marketing efforts by establishing joint ventures and alliances with other companies who have similar client profiles in a non-competing business.
    1. Look at this scenario: You own a restaurant and have 1,000 clients who know and trust you and like your food and service. The florist down the street also has a 1,000 clients who know and trust her. You approach her with an idea. You will pay for amailing to her list in which she endorses your restaurant and offer a special coupon for a free appetizer to her clients. You mail a similar endorsement for her shop to your list. You will both get a huge infusion of new business. Now doesn’t that make more sense than running an ad on the radio or in the paper?
  7. Critical Fundamental #7: First of all, notice all the above fundamentals don’t ask you to risk money on media advertising and any one of them can easily increase your sales 20% or more. However, if you choose to advertise in the media, TRACK YOUR RESULTS! Don’t fall in the trap of building a brand or getting your name out there. If you are investing in something, know your return on your investment. If you put $5,000 dollars into an investment portfolio, you expect a minimum return and you closely track your results. Do the same thing when you invest in marketing.

You Must Get the Fundamentals in Place
Or You Are Losing Business!

As we discussed earlier, a good small business marketing strategy starts like a sports team does in preseason, by getting back to fundamentals. If you are following these small business marketing strategy fundamentals, you should congratulate yourself because you are one of the few who are getting repeat business, referrals and new customers for a fraction of what the average small business spends to attract a customer.

If you are not doing so, get started. It is a lot easier and less expensive than you think and your returns will be huge and you will literally reap exponential increases in sales.